I gave my best
This may sound mean or unsympathetic, but one of my least favorite sayings is “I gave my best.” To me, it is an unacceptable crutch; I don’t want to hear it.
My personal feeling is this: when the goal is to accomplish greatness, go where no one or team has gone before. I wasn’t asking for your best effort; your best is what you were capable of in the past. I was expecting you to figure it out, to try a thousand ways, if need be try another thousand ways, expecting you to innovate, lose sleep, get around it, find loopholes, research, sweat like you never have before. Every extraordinary accomplishment, invention, or revolution was not a result of someone giving his or her best. Somehow that person or group found a way to do what no one else could do; they did the impossible; they did what no one had ever done before. The real issue is: it’s not the effort that is in question at the moment or during the event; it’s what you put into it leading up to it. Whether you win or lose, get the sale, or ace the test, it is all determined by the effort given in preparing for the event. Every match is determined long before the contest happens. So the next time you fail, before you want to make yourself feel better by saying “I did my best,” consider if you had given your best in the preparation. The actual effort given in the event has the littlest to do with the outcome.
Each of us has the ability to impact thousands of people’s lives through providing genuine care for others, whether it is called Customer service or human service. One of my favorite quotes is by author Marian Wright Edelman, who said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” However, it is critical that each of us understand the purpose of why we were given this amazing gift of life and what we were put here for, what we are to accomplish in the short time we have. You can’t just deliver world-class service at work; it has to be something that is in you, in all areas of your life. It is who you are; it is the way you treat your family, neighbors, coworkers, Customers, and strangers. And remember, there are no strangers, just friends you haven’t met yet.
I really like how actor Matthew McConaughey said it, while he accepted the Academy Award for best actor in a leading role for his part in Dallas Buyers Club: “My hero, that’s who I chase . . . My hero is me in ten years . . . Every day, every week, every month, every year of my life, my hero is always ten years away. I am never going to be my hero, I am not going to attain that, I know I am not. That’s just fine with me, because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
Personal purpose statement
Over the last ten years, I have had a personal purpose statement, a vision of what I want to accomplish in my lifetime, and which has served me greatly through good times and some very tough times. I have had this vision posted on my bathroom mirror, it is in my wallet, and it’s on my desk in my office. It reads, “Live an extraordinary life so countless others do as well.”
I don’t want to live an extraordinary life so I have a bigger bank account, nicer car, house, and more toys. I know that if I live an extraordinary life, so many others will as a result. And if I do not find a way to live an extraordinary life, I will probably end up cheating thousands of people.
“Undeveloped potential cheats those around us, those we
touch, influence, and impact, as well as deprives ourselves
of joy, satisfaction, and opportunities. Living our life to its
fullest potential is not an opportunity; it is our responsibility.
It is an obligation to be the best version of ourselves we
possibly can be, every day. Not just for us and how our life
will benefit, but also for all the people depending on us: our
spouse, children, friends, employees, coworkers, Customers,
and our community.”
Living an extraordinary life is living fully. I believe that we all have enormous potential inside each of us, and if there are parts of that potential that we do not develop, we are cheating the rest of the world out of the contribution that we could have made. So if I don’t live fully, I don’t just deny myself a lot of joy and satisfaction; I deny the rest of the people in the world the benefit of what I could have contributed. Success is when you are firing on all eight cylinders, mentally, physically, emotionally, with family, socially, in your career, financially, and spiritually—all of those are part of you and they all deserve your very best. Living an extraordinary life is like when the flight attendant says, “You must put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you.” When you first hear that, it actually sounds a bit selfish. However, what use will you be to anyone else if you do not take care of yourself first?
A personal purpose statement is not something you just write out, post, and expect automatic achievement from. You need to make yourself accountable—it needs to be measurable. For me, living an extraordinary life means there are so many things I need to be working on daily, personally, and professionally. It is everything from whom I am spending my time with (are they positive or negative influences in my life?) to my health, exercise, and diet. Some people think that if they eat junk food all day, that is their business. However, I realize that if I eat a poor diet, it is one of the most selfish things I can do. Because when I get home after work, I am going to be exhausted and irritable and not have any good energy left to spend with my boys. Therefore, I just cheated them. It is not only living longer, but it is the quality of life I want to have during my fifties, sixties, and beyond.
Any time I am feeling like I am not living an extraordinary life, and that is more times than I like to admit, I can look at my key drivers and see why—see what I am neglecting—and hopefully I can get right back on track.
What if today is the last day of your life?
Are you ready? Did you do what you were put on this earth to do? Did you make the impact in people’s lives you were capable of? We don’t get much say over how or when we die, but we do get to decide how we are going to live, so decide. Is this the life you want to live? Is this the person you want to love? Is this what you want to do every day? Are these the people you want to spend your time with? Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger, kinder, more compassionate? Can you love more? Can you care more? Can you show more appreciation? Can you forgive? What are you waiting for?
How different would our world be today if Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Edison, Nelson Mandela, and other greats just chose to be ordinary?
“Our greatest fear should be that we will
realize our fullest potential before we die.”
Did I utilize my potential today?
My greatest fear is that before I die, I won’t realize my fullest potential of the talents given to me to use. What a waste if I don’t. Think about it: What if God could have given my talents to someone else who would have done more with it? They say a runner has two fears before he runs a race: the first one is that he will not have enough energy to finish the race strong, and the second fear is that he will have some energy left when he finishes. I don’t want to have anything left when I am done.
Think for a moment: if you die tomorrow, would you have reached your fullest potential as a spouse, parent, son/daughter, employee, coworker, service provider, leader, neighbor, and friend?
The following is an exercise I did that I challenge you to do: ask yourself if you are reaching your fullest potential in all areas of your life. Write a few sentences about each of the people or groups of people that are important to you. Start with “Did I utilize the potential I had inside of me to my . . .”
- leadership team?
Below is what I wrote about each group after doing this exercise. I am not this person yet—it is who I want to be. However, when I do read this (try to a few times a week), I do seem to be closer to that person than the days I do not. I hope my examples help you in crafting your own responses.
- Did I utilize the potential I had inside me to make my spouse feel so loved, so beautiful, so sexy and smart every day? Did I remind her what a wonderful mother she is and how fortunate I am to have her as a partner? Did I tell her that I could not be the person I am today if it weren’t for the support and love that she continues to give me?
- Did I utilize the potential I had inside me to make my children feel that they were the most special human beings ever born? Did they feel that they could accomplish anything because they believe in their own ability and have phenomenal self esteem because of the way I make them feel every day?
- Did I utilize the potential I had inside me to inspire leaders to take risks, make them realize that it’s all right to fail, to dream? Did I tell them what I think they can accomplish? Did I let them know the greatness I see in them and that there is nothing they can’t do?
- Did I utilize the potential I had inside me to help my company achieve its potential? Did I make clear my vision and purpose of why our company exists? Did I find a way to articulate that message to my team and get them to understand the critically important roles they play in that vision? Am I doing everything in my power to make sure the company is on the right path to benefit everyone on the team long term, which will produce plenty of job opportunities, advancement, and both personal and professional fulfillment through their careers?
- Did I utilize the potential I had inside me to help my Customers gain an unfair competitive advantage? Did I deliver more than what they were expecting? Did they feel like I was one of the best investments that they have ever made?
- Did I utilize the potential I had inside me to be a great friend to the people I know well and have known for a long time? Did I make the effort to stay in touch and remind them that I was always there for them, even if we didn’t talk but once a year? Did they know that I would drop anything for them in a moment’s notice? Did they realize that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for them? Did they know that I still enjoyed seeing them, and did I always ask about their families and their work?
I invite you to live an extraordinary life so countless others will.
~John DiJulius, keynote speaker, international customer experience consultant and best selling author of three books.
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